Weight Patrol: Air India Suspends Yet Another 57 Cabin Crew Members For Being Overweight

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Air India‘s weight patrol is at it again and has suspended another batch of 57 flight attendants for being overweight per the companies standard.

Air India is known for rigidly enforcing their rule that flight attendants can’t exceed BMI limits which essentially deems employees ‘too fat to fly’ and has suspended great numbers of staff in previous years.

Such decisions by airlines are controversial and often subject to sharp criticism especially in the international arena where firing employees based on weight would be deemed illegal.

I remember writing about the same matter at Air India back in 2015 (see here) when the company suspended 130 crew members for the same reason.

This week Business Insider (access here) reported that the carrier completed another sweep and picked up 57 staff who didn’t meet the company standard.

Air India has turned down 57 cabin crew members for being overweight. The cabin crew members, most of them being air hostesses, were told to get back in shape quickly, failing to which they have been assigned ground jobs.

“These crew members had a higher-than-permitted body mass index (BMI, the ratio of weight and height of an individual). They were asked to lose weight and given deadlines. When they could not do so, they were assigned ground jobs last month,” a senior Air India official, told ET.

The 56 members are declared temporarily unfit for six months and if they do not meet the BMI requirements in 18 months, they are termed permanently unfit. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had more than two years ago introduced strict requirements for cabin crew’s weight, vision and hearing.

As per the DGCA guidelines, ideal BMI for a male cabin crew is 18-25 while it is 18- 22 for female crew. It also clears that those with BMI of 25-29.9 and 22-27 are seen as overweight while those with 30 and 27 BMI are obese

“Most of the cabin crew we have taken off flying duties had BMI over 30,” an AI officer told ET.

The uniforms of certain airlines are very unforgiving as soon as the person wearing it has a few pounds too many and these include those of Air India as well (even more so Sri Lankan Airlines).

What is motivating the airlines enforcing these stringent regulations is simply the image they project through their staff. No carrier really wants to have to live with the reputation ‘xy has fat flight attendants’ as cabin crew appearance is still associated with elegance and professional attire. Airlines often invest a lot into the design of the apparel to convey just this but it all won’t help if the person wearing it has excessive weight.

Conclusion

Such measures by any company would likely be deemed discriminatory and illegal in most western countries while in Asia such rules are still prevalent with many carriers.

Is it wrong to enforce regulations like this? Not if the rules are clear from the beginning and employees still decide to let themselves go, overstepping their BMI limit. It’s like any other violation of workplace rules and in the end nobody forced these employees to apply for and stay on the job if they don’t like the regulation.

But I said it the last time around already, in times where passengers wear sweat suits and live like pigs on the plane it’s hardly justified to impose model criteria on the crew. Flying these days, more often than not, is a filthy greyhound bus with wings.

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